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Irish Cancer Society welcomes UK recommendation to include boys in HPV vaccination programme and calls for same in Ireland

The Irish Cancer Society has welcomed the recommendation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in the UK to include boys in the HPV vaccination programme.

Irish Cancer Society CEO Averil Power said “The HPV vaccine is a lifesaving vaccination that has the potential to eliminate HPV related cancers. While we currently offer it to girls in Ireland to protect them against cervical cancer, the next step must be to give it to boys so that they are also protected from cancers caused by HPV infection.

“While 335 women are diagnosed with cancers caused by HPV each year, 85 men in Ireland also develop a cancer which could potentially be prevented by a simple and safe vaccination. Currently boys can avail of the HPV vaccine through their GP, for a fee, often as much as €300. The Irish Cancer Society believes it is time to address this inequality and for Ireland to freely offer protection against HPV-caused cancers for boys and girls,” she said.

“While huge progress has been made in increasing HPV vaccine uptake rates in girls in Ireland, we will not be able to eliminate the effects of HPV without rolling out the programme to boys as well.”

Currently in Ireland, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) are assessing whether the vaccine should be made available to boys as part of the national vaccination programme. The Society expects a recommendation to the Department of Health on the matter in 2018.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the name for a large group of related but different viruses, approximately 170 of which are known to infect humans. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. Most people never know that they have been infected and may give HPV to a partner without knowing it. However, for some women it can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women, or pre-cancerous cervical lesions (so-called abnormal cells), which will affect 1 in 10 Irish women in their lifetime.

HPV can also cause cancers of the penis in men, and, in both men and women, cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx).

Since 2010, all first year girls in secondary schools in Ireland have been offered HPV vaccination for free under the national HPV Vaccination Programme, which is delivered in their school.

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